Mike Mandel: Good 70s Reviewed in Artforum

Mike Mandel

525 West 26th Street, Floor 2
May 11–June 30

By Juliana Halpert

The shared blunders of Richard Nixon and our current leader are obvious, but there’s one stark difference between the two presidents: Nixon, who loved classical music and reportedly wanted to throw liberals a bone during the Vietnam War, demonstrated strong support for the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1971, its budget was doubled. By the end of the decade, the number of working artists in the country had increased by 81 percent.

“Good ’70s” is a fitting name, then, for this exhibition of Mike Mandel’s work, all from projects made over the course of that decade. It was a productive period for the artist—the recipient of several NEA fellowships—and his images reflect the protean identity of photography at the time. At a glance, the twenty-one black-and-white snapshots of barbershops, airports, shop fronts, and other public spaces appear commonplace—until you spot Mandel himself, lurking in the periphery or grinning goofily next to his subjects. Are they self-portraits? Sure. But they lack the genre’s forced introspection, and they cheekily eschew street photography’s air of detachment as well.

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